On his 84th birthday, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Air Force Veteran Morgan Freeman, who served from 1955 to 1959 and became an award-winning actor.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1937, Morgan Freeman was the youngest of five children. His parents had left the South to find work in Chicago. Until the age of six, Freeman lived with his grandmother in Mississippi. After his parents separated, Freeman moved to Greenwood, Mississippi, with his mother. There Freeman frequently attended the local movie theater and became a fan of actors like Gary Cooper and Sidney Poitier. He frequently saw war movies, which inspired his interest in becoming a pilot. In school, Freeman acted in several school plays and competitions, often taking leading roles and winning awards.
After graduating high school in 1955, Freeman turned down a drama scholarship to Jackson State University to enlist in the Air Force. After basic training, Freeman worked as a radar technician for more than a year before training as a pilot. When he did start training to fly, he realized that it was not right for him and he could not remain in the military. He received an honorable discharge as an airman first class in 1959.
Upon leaving the military, Freeman renewed his interest in acting and moved to California. But despite taking acting classes, he found no work and eventually moved to New York. In 1967, Freeman’s big career break came when he landed a part in an all African-American Broadway production of “Hello, Dolly!” starring Pearl Bailey. In 1971, he also began appearing regularly on “The Electric Company,” a public television-produced children’s TV show that taught kids to read. When the show ended in 1976, Freeman struggled to find roles in films. Instead, he continued to work in minimal roles on television shows.
Freeman’s luck changed in 1987 when he landed a role in the film “Street Smart” as the volatile pimp Fast Black. The role proved to be a huge success for Freeman, earning him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Two years later, Freeman earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and a second Oscar nomination for his role as the chauffeur in the 1989 film “Driving Miss Daisy.” He also starred in Edward Zwick’s critically acclaimed “Glory,” a drama about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, one of the first recognized African-American units in the Civil War.
In 1993, Freeman directed his first film, “Bopha!,” and soon formed his production company, Revelations Entertainment. He later appeared as the convict Red in the film “The Shawshank Redemption.” He starred in “Amistad,” “Nurse Betty” and “Dreamcatcher.” In 2005, Freeman received his first Oscar award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in the film “Million Dollar Baby.” He also provided narration for films like “War of the Worlds” and “March of the Penguins.” In the 2010s, Freeman appeared in “Olympus Has Fallen,” “Oblivion,” “Last Vegas” and “Lucy.” In 2015, he played the Chief Justice of the United States on the television show “Madam Secretary,” for which he was an executive producer.
Thank you for your service!
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Writer: Sarah Concepcion
Editor: Michaela Yesis